Jonah Bromwich steers the whip with one arm like Herman of Herman’s Military Antiques.
Action Bronson is so consistent that it can be tough to figure out what makes his two best projects to date, Blue Chips and now Blue Chips 2, qualitatively better than other recent work. Saab Stories was underrated, and some feel that Rare Chandeliers was on par with the original Blue Chips. But for many, if not most of us, the two BC’s reign supreme. Now it’s just a question of figuring out why.
Of course, much of the credit can be placed at the feet of Party Supplies whose penchant for thumbing through low-budget samples with expensive taste could not be better suited to Bronson’s Cam’ron-2.0 flights of fancy. The songs that are attracting the most attention on Blue Chips 2: “Through the Eyes of a G,” Contemporary Man,” “Twin Peugots,” “9.24.13,” and “Amadu Diablo,” just to name a few, wouldn’t have half the appeal if they were being rapped over the more standard boom-bap that Bronson otherwise favors. Even Supplies’ smaller decisions—like the one to break up the album with selected commercials, including a mind-blowing spot from Phil Mickelson endorsing the way-more-dangerous-than-it’s-worth joint pain drug Enbrel—pay off enormously.
It’s what Bronson chooses to do with the moments that Supplies supplies him that makes up the difference between a top-notch release from Bronsolino and something that’s merely fun to throw on. But it’s not as if there’s actually some big secret that distinguishes the Blue Chips. In fact, it’s only a couple of extraordinary touches in a run of typical Bronson songs that sets these two above the rest.
On the first Blue Chips, those touches came from a surprising emotional depth which I’ve written about extensively here and here—and which may have thrown listeners off if they looked for something similar on the sequel. Because what makes Blue Chips 2 so worthwhile isn’t any kind of gut level emotionality. Rather it’s the perfection of the style that Bronson’s been honing since that first tape—the occasional line that’s so crystallized, so perfectly Bam Bam, that you almost have to rip your headpones off: “efharisto, that was delicious.”
“Contemporary Man,” is the best example because it would take someone like Papoose or Kweli (or, sadly, Eminem) to actually screw something this fun up. But Bronson takes it to a whole new level with two simple choices: first the decision to sing the little baby hook (“when our eyes first met…”) which is the most unforgettable moment on a pretty unforgettable song. And then there’s this sketch, directly afterwards:
“Georgia Southern, her alma mater
She raised out in Queens, but moved out to Colorado
Looney Tunes, Taz on the shirt fuck swag, got pizzazz”
Bronson, like a couple of other artists regularly accused of misogyny, paints great portraits of women, and the details he supplies about this one, as simple as a couple of regions and the shirts she favors, are well-chosen. It’s a riff that only goes on for a few lines, but that’s all that it takes to elevate Bronson’s characteristic shit-talking into something more. A hot couple of lines is all it takes to make it a hot song.
There’s another one on “Amadu Diablo,” one of the many shit-smeared tracks that makes Blue Chips 2 the most scatological Action release since the original. This one’s a sad story, with one of the funniest lines of the year to rescue it:
“She threw the condom tell me put it in
I did, fuck
I nutted in like three strokes, shit
Now that’s no way to rep the East Coast.”
A little bit of focus, the decision to dwell on a vignette for an extra second or two, and Bronson suddenly renders songs unskippable. It can be endlessly frustrating when he fails to do this—it doesn’t seem to take him all that much effort to spend a little extra attention on any one image. But thankfully, Blue Chips 2 is stuffed full of such moments.
This is also the most quotable Bronson album, due mostly to the constant one-liners, which do for rap heads what Anchorman and Borat did for the general male population for a couple of months. I’ll never be able to think about Muppet babies in the same way, and it’s no longer possible to regard Patrick Ewing without suspicion.
There are two strains of Bronson—the street portraitist and the absurdist raconteur. Usually one is emphasized over the other, but on both Blue Chips the two sides are merged. Wed “my shorty keep it real, take a shit out the car window, hide the money in a Nintendo” to “bare-handed choke a hippopotamus” within the same song and you understand the basic formula. On Blue Chips 2, he’s figured out how best to employ both sides of his personality: it’s Bronson’s basic shtick brought to a head in a way it’s never been, and the results are simply too fun to quit listening to.
ZIP: Action Bronson – Blue Chips 2 (Left-Click)